10 Homeschool Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier
If you are new to homeschooling or just looking for some ideas to get your day to run a little smoother, it’s time to learn some tricks of the trade that veteran homeschoolers use to stay on top of their game. Here are my top ten homeschooling hacks to take the edge off and help make your life easier!
(1) Daily Intentionality
When we talk about successful homeschooling, we always talk about having a plan, or a roadmap, or some sort of organizational principle for how we want our homeschool to unfold. Specifics will vary, but you have to have some kind of strategy. To turn this into a hack, break it down to the daily level—ask yourself: What is my strategy today? What do I hope to accomplish today? Going into your day with an intentional goal makes a huge difference.
Generations of public schooling has conditioned us to think of education in terms of separate grades with separate classes for each grade. But if we are homeschooling, there’s no reason we need to operate this way. If you have, say, three kids, there is no reason you need to teach three individual history classes. Teach the same historical era to all children at the same time. This is a technique alternately known as “blending” or the “schoolhouse method,” and it was very common in education before the modern classroom. Granted, this cannot be done with all subjects, but it can be done with some subjects; you should utilize this whenever possible.
(3) Unit Studies
Blending is combining students for a single class; unit studies are combining classes for a single “unit.” If you are studying early America for history, combine it with literature and assign readings relative to that period. The history and literature reinforce each other, becoming a single “unit.” You could add other subjects such as music, art, and more. This streamlines planning and gives your homeschooling a “theme” for the week, month, etc. that you can build around.
(4) Don’t Mimic the Public School
We mention this point a lot on this blog, but it is important because it is an error many new homeschoolers fall into without even realizing it. We give ourselves a lot of extra work when trying to duplicate the public school. We do this when we take the public school organization as the model to work from, basing our planning, assessments, methodology, and use of space upon it. Public school was created to mass educate large numbers of children in a highly controlled environment. Its aims are not our aims, and its methodology is not our methodology. See our article here for more on this important subject. It will save you a lot of hassle!
(5) Have Older Kids Teach Younger Siblings
This is an excellent way to economize on your time and focus your attention where it is most needed. If you are homeschooling multiple children, have the older kids teach the younger. An older sibling can read a book with their little brother, review spelling, help with basic math, review the ABCs, and any number of things. This helps you free up time to work with another child, or attend to adult matters. Obviously this requires some balance; you cannot simply offload the entire responsibility of homeschooling a younger child to an older sibling. But this is an excellent technique to use occasionally, not only to free up time, but to nurture bonds between siblings as well.
Homeschooling is often associated with a prepackaged, boxed curriculum. In the online homeschool groups I belong to, newbies will always ask, “What curriculum is everybody using?” The word “homeschoolish” speaks to the eclectic possibilities of homeschooling: You don’t have to exactly follow a boxed curriculum if it doesn’t work for your individual child. Using a boxed curriculum is fine, but if part of it isn’t working, ditch it. Curricula are like recipes; you don’t have to follow a recipe exactly. Make sure you include some quality ingredients but you can change up the recipe to create a homeschool that is effective and instills a love and joy of learning.
(7) Teach Teens How to Safely Research Online
The internet is a fantastic tool for research and education. While parents are rightly concerned about what their children might access online, we miss out on a lot when we fail to utilize the truly fantastic content that is available online. YouTube alone has thousands of excellent channels on history, literature, math, science, and more! The internet is so ubiquitous today that it is not realistic to expect our children to avoid it. A better approach is to give our children the skills to research safely online. Teach them how to search, how to avoid online scams, and how to sort out sound sources from misinformation. Teach them about online privacy and about the real dangers that are out there.
The internet is a tool, like a hammer or rake—granted, it is a vastly more complex tool, but still a tool, something created by human beings to help us do work. Like any tool, the best way to utilize it is to learn to handle it properly. The online world opens up a vast treasure trove of resources that can add considerable richness to your homeschooling.
If you need help with this, Homeschool Connections has a course called “How to Research on the Internet” taught by the incomparable Kevin O’Brien. Also make sure to add protections such as Covenant Eyes.
(8) Get Your Kids Using Planners
Back when I was in high school, the school distributed planners to every student at the beginning of the academic year. Students were expected to use the planner. We had to bring it to each class and write our assignments in it and would get penalized if we didn’t have it. Helping your student stay organized is a big game changer! Whether you hand your kids their own physical planner or use some sort of online system or app, make sure your kids have a plan for keeping track of what they are accountable for. Kids hate when they don’t understand what they are supposed to be doing; conversely, their attitude improves considerably when they have a clear vision for what they are expected to accomplish. So get them organized!
(9) Change Your Environment
Despite your best efforts, you are going to hit bumps in the road. You will deal lack of motivation, bad attitude, fidgeting, whining, and kids bickering with each other. One of the easiest ways to nip this in the bud is to simply change the environment. Pack the kids up and go to the library, go to the coffee shop, or go to the park. Heck, even just go into a different room in the house. We are creatures of environment, and a change of environment changes motivation. It’s like hitting “reset,” starting our minds over with a clean slate.
If you can’t change locations, a great trick is to use food. Food has a powerful way of changing attitude! Whining kids become more docile when you set a snack tray down in front of then. Whatever they are complaining about becomes more bearable if they can munch while they work through it. These are small changes that can make a huge difference.
(10) Be Joyful
Finally, remember that your emotions will rub off on your kids. Emotions are contagious; children are more likely to enjoy their homeschooling experience if you are enjoying it yourself. Resolve today to demonstrate an attitude of joy towards your homeschooling. If you are joyful, your students will respond better to your efforts.
One of the greatest Catholic homeschool hacks you can do is to sign up for Homeschool Connections. With LIVE, interactive courses and over 450 self-paced courses in our recorded catalog, it’s a given that there will be something in there you can use! Visit our course finder page to see what is available. Happy homeschooling!